Criminal Attorney Oklahoma Defense Lawyer Adam R. Banner OKLAHOMA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AT LAW

The Oklahoma Legal Group Blog

Criminal Defense Attoneys: "How Many Cases Have You Won?"

Adam Banner - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If you are a criminal defense attorney in Oklahoma (or a practicing lawyer anywhere else for that matter), you have almost certainly been asked on at least one occasion what your "win-loss" record is. My answer? It depends on what you consider a "win"...

Yeah, yeah, I know. "It depends." Could I possibly come up with a more cliche answer? Probably not, but there's a good reason for that. It really does depend on what the attorney personally, and what society in general, considers a "win" in a certain area of legal practice.

I've practiced criminal defense my entire career, so I can't speak for lawyers in other areas of practice. Still, I've talked to plenty of other criminal defense lawyers who have echoed my same sentiment. A "win" can come in many shapes and sizes in the realm of criminal law, and there is no way to keep a running tally of your "win-loss" columns. Every case is different, and every client faces different circumstances.

Take last week for example. In my humble opinion, I feel as though we had two pretty solid wins.

In one case, our client was a young lady, a college student, charged with grand larceny. Grand larceny is a felony charge, and anyone convicted of grand larceny in Oklahoma can be sentenced up to five (5) years incarceration in the State Penitentiary. Moreover, the liability for a defendant in this situation can reach even deeper than the punishment range; even if I were able to get the client a recommendation of deferred probation with no conviction, she would still face all of the stigma and struggles which follow someone on felony probation. 

With the knowledge that even a deferred-probation term may still wreck my client's future, I proceeded to meet with the District Attorney's office and settle on some preliminary benchmarks that my client would meet in order to show that she was worthy of a "second chance" so to speak. My client's hard-work in meeting these goals, coupled with the other mitigation I gathered for the prosecution, allowed us to get the client's charge amended from a felony to a misdemeanor. The case was not dismissed, but misdemeanor probation is much less intrusive than felony probation. Moreover, misdemeanor probation doesn't carry near the stigma that felony probation does, and a deferred sentence for a misdemeanor can be expunged more quickly than a deferred sentence for a felony.

I consider that result a "win."

In regards to the other case we resolved, my client was charged with Felony Possession of Drug Proceeds and Misdemeanor Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance. In that case, I was able to get an outright dismissal of the felony charge through negotiations with the District Attorney's office. Ultimately, we were able to negotiate a dismissal of the felony charge in exchange for a conviction on the misdemeanor charge. Even though my client was convicted of the misdemeanor charge, he received a suspended sentence, so he is not required to actually serve jail time. Regardless of the misdemeanor conviction, I consider this case a "win" becasue we were able to keep the client out of jail and keep him from becoming a convicted felon (or even having to deal with felony probation). 

As you can see, a "win" in criminal defense is not merely limited to getting a case dismissed or getting an acquittal at jury trial. 

Furthermore, anyone who has ever represented a defendant in front of a jury knows that no one gets acquittals in all of their jury trials. There are just too many factors at play to go undefeated in jury trial practice. Even if you cherry-picked the case you took to jury trial in the hopes of never losing, you'd soon find out that there is no way in hell to guess what twelve random strangers will do with much accuracy. 

As such, the same line of thought applies to jury trials: you can get a win without getting an acquittal. 

Like I tell anyone who asks, I've "won" jury trials where my client still ended up in jail. A great example is an armed robbery charge I once defended. The prosecutor was offering a seventeen-year split-sentence (seven years in prison and ten years on probation afterwards). Although the prosecution had some strong evidence and arguments against my client, he continued to maintain his innocence, and I consequently defended his case to a jury. He was ultimately convicted on two counts of armed robbery; however, I was able to convince the jury to give him the minimum sentence on both counts (five years incarceration), and then successfully argued for the five year sentences to run concurrently (resulting in five years incarceration instead of ten). 

So, instead of my client spending seven years in jail and then reporting to a probation officer for ten years after that, he spent five years in jail and was finished. That's what we call beating the prosecution's recommendation at trial. I consider that a win as well.

An attorney's "win-loss" record can be measured in a number of ways. Consequently, if you want to know how many cases an attorney has won, you need to know what is considered a win in his or her area of practice.

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